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Police impose curfew in Harare
Caiphas Chimhete & Valentine Maponga, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
February 25, 2007

POLICE have imposed an illegal curfew in Harareís high-density areas as State-sponsored repression mounts in the face of public outrage at the denial of democratic space to voices opposed to the government, The Standardís investigations have confirmed.

The curfew comes as it emerged last week that the three-month police ban on political rallies and demonstrations was illegal as it exceeds the one-month limit prescribed by the draconian Public Order and Security Act (Posa).

The police last week banned all political rallies and demonstrations in Harare and Chitungwiza on the pretext they could degenerate into violence.

Last week, the police forcibly dispersed an MDC rally, resulting in scores of people being injured.

On Friday, police again barred Morgan Tsvangirai, the president of the anti-Senate Movement for Democratic Change faction, from holding a rally in Bulawayo.

Tsvangirai intended to launch his 2008 Presidential election campaign.

Heavily armed police, wielding guns, batons, shields, teargas canisters, on foot and in armoured trucks, supported by Israeli- imported anti-riot water cannons, barricaded the venue and barred Tsvangirai from entering the venue.

The police action affected the operations of the Bulawayo City Council as workers were forced to knock off earlier than usual after police denied residents entrance to the council premises.

Tsvangirai said in future his faction would not seek police clearance for their rallies. He echoed the position taken the National Constitutional Assembly and the Zimbabwe National Students Union who vowed to ignore the ban.

Yesterday, the police told the opposition United Peopleís Party (UPP) their inter-district meeting in Bulawayo had been cancelled. UPP had obtained police clearance for their meeting set for today.

UPP president Daniel Shumba confirmed the ban but vowed they would go ahead with their meeting. But the police are not restricting their operations to opposition parties.

A snap survey by The Standard revealed that the police had imposed an illegal curfew in Harareís political flashpoints.

There have been arbitrary beatings of people in Epworth, Highfield, Kambuzuma, Kuwadzana, Mufakose, Glen View and Glen Norah, under the cover of darkness.

One police victim, Ndaba Maphosa of Highfield, covered in bruises all over his body, said he was beaten up by the police on Wednesday around 11:00 PM while on his way home from Speedy Sport Bar in the Southerton area, where he had gone to watch a soccer match on television.

"They beat us up indiscriminately, accusing us of being MDC supporters. It was a terrible moment," Maphosa said.

Another victim, Warren Sibanda (36) of Kambuzuma Section 3 said he was severely assaulted by a group of police officers while on his way home from a nearby bar.

"Itís so unreasonable. Itís as if we are back in the colonial days when Ian Smithís forces could do anything with impunity," he said.

Even night club owners are now complaining of plunging sales as a direct result of the police action.

Virginia Munyama of Fiyo Bar at Machipisa shopping centre said her sales had dropped significantly since the police action started. She said the police ordered them to close the sports bar around 8PM every day although their licence allows them to open until late.

Both the imposition of a curfew and the ban on political rallies and demonstrations are illegal under the Constitution, The Standard established yesterday.

Under Posa police can only impose a ban on political rallies and demonstrations for a period of one month.

Reads a section of POSA: " . . . he (police officer) may issue an order prohibiting, for a specified period not exceeding oane month, the holding of all public demonstrations or any class of public demonstrations in the area or part thereof concerned."

Acting director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Irene Petras said a three-month ban was illegal.

"In terms of section 27 of Posa, the police are only entitled to impose of a ban that does not exceed one month. What they are doing is ridiculous," Petras said.

She said before the police could impose a ban, they were required under the law to advise the people affected and all interested parties so that they could make their representations.

The International Bar Associationís Human Rights Institute said the ban breached the right to freedom of assembly protected by international law and the countryís constitution.

Questioned about the legality of the ban, police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena yesterday said he was uncertain on the issue. "I will have to check on that.

In any case, if the one month expires the police can still renew the ban, if there is still need," he said.

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